Why is Ellington more important than the hundreds of other civil rights activists no one is familiar with! He's a force, absolutely, but to elevate him to the level of hero? I think you need to take a few more risks to attain that level of adulation.

Oliver Cohen

Nat Hentoff replies: I never said Duke was a civil rights activist. I said Duke was important because his music chronicled the history of the black experience in America. Mr. Cohen might well listen to some more of Ellington's music and discover part of the essence of that history—over 300 years.

Raving Reviewer

MICHAEL FEINGOLD must be so starved for substance that he is seeing multicolored zebras for horses. Understandably, his posterior is turning a little cottony sitting in those Broadway seats, but his review of Elevator Repair Service's production of Total Fictional Lie was like the boy who made rock soup ["Zombie Aerobics," November 3].

Maybe it's cool to see something new, refreshing to take a cab to the lower depths to see what the young kids are doing, but Feingold took the liberty of crediting Elevator Repair Service with such social relevance that one would think a revolution was in the works. Don't get me wrong, I liked the show. The innovative nature of its experimentation was admirable. But let's call a spade a spade. The more critics try to intellectually read into creativity and superimpose relevance, the more theater groups will believe that a lack of commitment to ideas is something to be rewarded.

Jennifer Woodward

Michael Feingold replies: Gee, I'm awfully sorry I interpreted; it's an old habit I've been meaning to break. But I didn't accuse Elevator Repair Service of having any conscious intentions, honest. I just thought they left that space blank for me to write in. Maybe I'd respond less actively if the Voice paid me enough to take cabs.

Ziggy To Dust

Re J. Hoberman's review of Velvet Goldmine ["Drama Queens," November 10]: Perhaps the fundamental failure of the film— aside from it being a snore— stems from the script's undigested flambé of fact and fantasy. Almost every line, incident, and character was slavishly appropriated from the David Bowie bio. Only the names and hair colors have been changed to protect the producers.

Director Todd Haynes does "take glam's extravagantly queer theatricality at its word," creating a vision of glam as a benchmark of gay liberation— a valid angle, albeit a highly exclusive one. After Bowie's personal history is pillaged, verisimilitude is jettisoned in favor of wish-fulfillment fantasy. Ersatzicon Slade gets disappeared by agency of the genuine Bowie bogey of onstage assassination.

Haynes rewrites history, silencing his idol before he renounces glitter and recants his bisexuality as a mere publicity stunt. Better to kill him before he falls and disappoints the faithful. Bowie didn't do anything indispensable after '73 anyway, right?

Alan Zdinak

Explosive Rhetoric

Jennifer Gonnerman's article about Emily Lyons, the nurse who was nearly killed by a bomb planted outside a reproductive health clinic in Alabama ["A Survivor's Story," November 10], proves that antiabortion terrorists will stop at nothing to end the right to choose.

The radical right has used the legal system to eradicate the right to choose abortion and undermine individual liberties protected by the U.S. Constitution. The Center for Reproductive Law and Policy tracked 12 such organizations in a new report, "Tipping the Scales: The Christian Right's Legal Crusade Against Choice," which describes how a dangerous breed of radical-right lawyers are working to codify rigid religious views based on a fundamentalist Christian agenda.

Their growth has exploded since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, as they push malpractice suits against doctors, defend abortion clinic protesters, and initiate legislative restrictions against abortion in Congress and statehouses across the country. These activities are fueled by money raised through their unlimited access to Christian television and radio networks.

Although leaders of Christian Right legal groups are not the ones setting fires, shooting guns, or building bombs, a measure of their success is that abortion services are unavailable in 84 percent of counties in the United States. They share responsibility for creating a climate where acts of violence against women and their doctors are extolled as justifiable. As Emily Lyons's story makes clear, the costs to life and liberty of such ideological warfare are too high.

Janet Benshoof, President
Center for Reproductive Law and Policy


Sharon Lerner's "Blight to Life" [November 3] addressed a trend related to the prochoice/antiabortion debate's polarization into a confrontation of extremist radicals:

Rosary-toting demonstrators have given way to arsonists, snipers, and the Nuremberg Files. There is no room for middle ground, no room for gray in an issue that is only interpreted as black and white. I would define myself as prochoice even though I would never have an abortion. Because of this, my voice is often lost in the exchange of epithets such as "baby killer," and "fascist Christians."

Lee Jennings

Johnny on the Spot

In Sarah Smith's article about what the Knicks are doing during the lockout ["The Breaks of the Game," November 17], John Starks says of the upcoming season: "It will be the old John Starks, going aggressively to the basket." Smith asks, "Was there ever any other John Starks?"

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